Explore the winter wonderland of Abinger Roughs
Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist who walked on the Roughs in the 1870s. Our trail, at the foot of the North Downs, is easy to follow and perfect for families new to exploring the countryside. Pick up our guided trail leaflet too (from the car park notice board) and discover more about the Roughs.
Abinger Roughs car park TQ110480
From the car park take the path through the fence at the opposite end of the car park from the road. You'll walk through some open woodland with some beautiful beech trees - their leaves in spring are a wonderful fresh green colour. Continue to follow the main path through grass. Some 300 yards from the start you will see some magnificent old beech trees on your left hand side. Look out for the Witches Broom tree. Just past here you will go down a small slope and meet a track crossing your path.
The Witches Broom tree
This tree is so old that some of its branches need to be propped up. It is estimated to be 200-300 years' old. Just think what has happened in history since it was planted. Can you measure how big it is around the trunk?
Following the sandy track you’ll see our 200 year old Scots and Corsican pine trees. We manage this area so that the best specimens grow strongest and tallest.
Scotts pine trees
Scots pine can grow up to 36m high and 1.5m round the trunk. Young trees have grey/green bark but as they grow older, the bark turns orange. Very old pine trees are known as ‘Granny pines’. They produce pine cones which hold the tree’s seeds.
You’re now standing near a well which provided water for horses and cattle many years ago. The water rises from an underground spring. Today the water table is low and the area is fenced off to stop animals falling into it. Continue along the path.
You have reached the open glade. To your left, over the greensand ridge, rises the Hurtwood (an area of heath and forest). Continue to the edge of the glade and a junction of paths. Take the second fork to the left along a glorious undulating path curving to the right and rising to a path signposted “the Snowdrop Trail”. Follow the path downhill to a gate and then a bench where the path turns sharply right and, if you're lucky, you'll see the bluebells on either side of the path. You'll pass through a gate and, keeping parallel to the hedge on your left, you'll come to a T-junction by an open gate. Turn right here along the rough track and up the slope to the trees.
English bluebells are small, intensely blue and fragrant. Their flower stems droop or nod to one side, the petal tips turn up and their pollen is creamy white. They are under threat from the robust Spanish bluebell which is more upright, paler blue and lacks scent.
Follow the broad sandy path out to the edge of the wood. Here is a wonderful view of the North Downs. Turn to the right. Here is the most wooded area on the Roughs. You can see three magnificent oak tree pollards. These trees are around 300 years old and have survived from the times when the Roughs were grazed as wood pasture. From this point turn back to face the Roughs, take the path to your left going down the slope keeping a fence on your left hand side.
View from sunset seat
Enjoy the view west from sunset seat. The farm nearby is Hackhurst Farm and you can look up onto Hackhurst Down and Kingswood.
Continue to follow the signs for the Nature Trail along the ‘Mayor’s path’. See the rhododendrons which were planted years ago to form a wilderness garden by Thomas Farrer, who owned the Roughs in the late 19th century. Follow the path through the rhododedrons until you come out into a wider more open area.
The Mayor’s path was named in honour of Charles Darwin’s son, Horace. Horace Darwin was Mayor of Cambridge between 1896 and 1897 and he was married to the daughter of Thomas Farrer.
In this open space, there are some memorials to life here in the past. The old farm to your left is Leaser's Barn which has been used for lambing for centuries. The granite cross is the Wilberforce Memorial. Take a moment to stop and read the inscription. Then walk up the path running past the memorial and head back to the car park.
On 19 July 1873 Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Winchester, tragically fell from his horse whilst journeying across the Roughs. His family erected this granite memorial where he fell near Leasers Barn (the 16th-century farm building near the monument where sheep used to be lambed).
Abinger Roughs car park TQ110480
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